Louis Saha made David Moyes's tactical switch pay dividends by sealing Everton's passage into the FA Cup semi-finals with the winning goal after coming off the bench in a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough at Goodison Park. Former Manchester United striker Saha, a free transfer signing from Old Trafford last August, won the tie for Everton with a glancing header past Boro keeper Brad Jones in the 56th minute.
Marouane Fellaini had six minutes earlier cancelled out David Wheater's first-half opener for Boro, but Saha's goal ensured Everton can now look forward to visiting the new Wembley for the first time in next month's semi-final. Everton had been strong favourites to beat Boro and book their first FA Cup semi-final since 1995 - the year they last won the Cup - but their first-half performance highlighted the nerves and tension within manager Moyes's squad.
The Merseysiders have rarely been comfortable in the role of favourites and the same old problems surfaced once more as Premier League strugglers Boro were allowed to coast through the first-half before Wheater grabbed the opener a minute before the break. Prior to Wheater's goal - his first for Boro since the opening day of the season - Gareth Southgate's team had twice gone close through French forward Jeremie Aliadiere. The former Arsenal striker first blazed over the crossbar from ten yards after being teed up by Matthew Bates before volleying into the ground after being released by Tuncay Sanli on the half hour.
Everton, without a recognised striker in their starting line-up, lacked pace and penetration up-front with Australia midfielder Tim Cahill once again deployed as a makeshift lone forward. The home side's goal threat was limited to headers from Belgian midfielder Fellaini who, despite his height, failed to take advantage, although he did have one effort cleared off the line by Bates.
Everton were punished for their poor first-half, though, when Wheater beat goalkeeper Tim Howard with a close-range header seconds before the interval. A failure to clear a free-kick properly allowed Bates to cross for the Boro centre-half, who outjumped the Everton defence.
Moyes made a key change at the interval, however, by introducing Saha in place of young midfielder Jack Rodwell and the switch instantly upped Everton's attacking threat. And the Everton manager was rewarded for his positive change five minutes into the second-half when Fellaini equalised with a header from Cahill's cross.
Fellaini's goal put Everton firmly in control of the game and they proceeded to pour forward in an attempt to capitalise on their second-half dominance. And the crucial second goal came six minutes later when Saha edged Everton to within touching distance of the semi-final with his clinical header from South African Steven Pienaar's cross.